American Queen returning

While excitement has been generated around the world this week by the birth of a prince, local energy will be directed next week to the arrival of a queen.

The American Queen – a 418-foot-long, 436-passenger sternwheeler – will make its first stop in Marietta on Tuesday. Having such a vessel visit ties directly into Marietta’s river heritage and all-American small town image, said Jeri Knowlton, executive director of the Marietta-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“Something as magnificent as the American Queen visiting our shoreline and bringing people to our town, it’s … what we’re all about, it’s who we are,” she said.

It’s also an opportunity to display the area’s hospitality.

“This is an all-hands-on-deck for the bureau,” Knowlton said. “We will spend our day down at the levy making sure all of the visitors get our best attention.”

They will provide information to passengers coming off the boat, as well as staff members who need to pick up supplies and get back to the boat in a timely manner.

“A lot of local people will come out to see the American Queen on the levee that day,” Knowlton added. “It’s an opportunity to provide information to them also.”

The Queen will dock at the Ohio River Levee in downtown Marietta from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday. Folks who aren’t able to see it then will have two more chances this year when the boat returns from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 8, and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 12.

It’s important for the city to put its best foot forward for the visitors to make sure both the passengers and the American Queen Steamboat Company want to keep coming back.

That’s the main reason the Cook’s Shop on Front Street is teaming with the company again this year to provide cooking classes and demonstrations for passengers, said Ken Kupsche, owner of the local store.

“We want to make sure Marietta’s a destination for them (the Queen) in the future,” he said. “It’s kind of a tradition for Marietta. … We get a little business, but it’s more just nice to see the boats pull in, for me.”

When the American Queen made its return to the Pioneer City in 2012 after a four-year absence, some passengers said they’d never been to Marietta or even heard of it, Knowlton said.

“But they were so enamored by Marietta that they couldn’t wait to come back,” she said.

The Queen brings new clientele to local businesses like Twisted Sisters Boutique on Front Street, said owner Becky Pritchett.

“We always love to see the boats coming into town,” she said. “We get to meet new people and maybe (see) returning people.”

But it’s not just the destinations closest to the levee that take advantage. Local museums will have premium offers, and there’s even an excursion planned to The Wilds, Knowlton said.

In an emailed statement Friday, American Queen Steamboat Company President and Chief Operating Officer Ted Sykes said the cruises passing through Marietta are nearly at full capacity.

“Marietta is an ideal stop because it is located at the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum rivers and offers charming shops in a quaint downtown shopping district, museums, trolley tours and seven miles of brick streets showcasing heritage homes, historical parks, monuments and cemeteries,” he said.